Island universities partner on tourism marketing

CONNECT will bring together tourism industry professionals, students and employers to network and discuss the future of the industry.

CONNECT, which aims to build connections between employers, industry professionals, students and faculty, takes place March 3 from 3-5 pm. 

 February 10, 2021

Vancouver Island University (VIU) and North Island College (NIC) are partnering with Tourism Vancouver Island (TVI) for an engaging, informative and interactive virtual networking event.

CONNECT will take place Wednesday, March 3 from 3-5 pm. The goal of the event is to build connections between employers, industry professionals, students and faculty, while bringing together key stakeholders in the industry to share up-to-date information on research, support programs and the future of tourism on Vancouver Island.

“Tourism as a vital part of the Vancouver Island economy is being severely shaken through the pandemic,” said Dave Pinel, NIC coordinator, adventure guiding and Indigenous ecotourism. “I’ve been impressed by the long-term vision and values-based leadership of Tourism Vancouver Island for supporting immediate sector needs while positioning where and how we land on our feet and recover with shared intention. I welcome this event as a chance to connect tourism students with respected industry partners while together learning and contributing to some of the TVI initiatives for destination recovery, development, and management in ways that work well for visitors and residents.”  

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on Vancouver Island’s tourism industry. As tourism operators, organizations, First Nations and governments work to ensure the industry’s recovery, it is becoming clear that the pandemic will leave lasting changes.

The past year has brought immense challenges to Vancouver Island’s tourism industry,” said Calum Matthews, Director of Destination Development at Tourism Vancouver Island. “Together we will get through this and rebuild towards a more sustainable and balanced tourism economy that ensures ample space for businesses, communities and ecosystems to thrive.”

The CONNECT event will be split into two different parts. Part 1 will bring together industry stakeholders with a presentation from Matthews that will highlight ongoing efforts to ensure the industry’s recovery while discussing the future of tourism on Vancouver Island, followed by an open Q&A from industry partners and professionals. Part 2 is a networking component to facilitate introductions, conversations and create connections between students and industry partners. 

“Collaboration and connection are critical in supporting both employers and students in this time of economic recovery, as VIU and NIC have discovered through our partnership to create the Vancouver Island Work-Integrated Learning (VIWIL) hub,” said Brittany Parker, Interim Director for VIU’s Centre for Experiential Learning. “While there is still so much uncertainty for the tourism and hospitality industries this summer, we feel that connecting talented students with industry will lead to employer needs being met, and additional opportunities for sudents.”

The VIWIL hub is a free service for all tourism and hospitality operators and employers to use to connect with student talent from both NIC and VIU. 

Registration for the event is open now. Visit VIU’s CONNECT webpage or NIC CONNECT for more information.


VIU alumnus starts award for single mothers

Receiving financial help changed Kyla Hanington’s life and the lives of her children when she was at university; now she wants to give back to families in similar situations.

 Tuesday, February 9, 2021

There were many times when Kyla Hanington was close to giving up on her university education.

Every time this happened, the single mother of two received a timely scholarship, bursary or award that served as encouragement, as “a promise that it was okay to keep going, that I was doing the right thing.” 

These “gifts of hope” encouraged the Vancouver Island University (VIU) alum, who now lives in Maryland, to start her own award for single mothers at her alma mater.

“Scholarships change lives. My life changed and the lives and the trajectories of both my children changed because of my VIU degree,” she says. “This is my opportunity to provide some hope and encouragement to another family.” 

Hanington’s post-secondary journey began with a desire to make a better life for her family. In 2005, she moved to the Island from Maryland with her two young kids, $300 cash and all of her possessions in a green suitcase after her relationship ended with her children’s father. 

Suffering loss and a high degree of anxiety over the uncertainty of her situation, Hanington dealt with the stress by drinking too much. Over time, she stopped drinking and found a steady, albeit low-paying job, but was laid off when the company closed during the 2008 recession. Then she turned her mind to education.

“My fear of failure and sense of being less capable than others almost stopped me from applying, but I realized I owed my children more than a hand-to-mouth existence,” she says.  

Hanington started her Bachelor of Arts degree at age 35, when her children were five and nine.

“We were quite poor at the time – eventually foreclosed on, in fact – and it was a struggle in many ways,” she recalls. “I was so close to quitting time and time again because of the immense financial pressure. I wondered at times if it was selfish to continue – not everyone does, often people go get low-paying jobs that don’t require university education because we need to support our families – and so was I doing the wrong thing by working so hard in pursuit of a degree?”

Thankfully, every time she had these thoughts, Hanington would receive a call from VIU’s Financial Aid & Awards department letting her know that she earned a scholarship or award that would keep her going. 

“They were reassurances that I was doing the right thing, like stepping-stones to work my way across,” she recalls. “Maybe I should quit, but not this semester.”


Hanington graduated in 2012 and immediately got a job with the provincial government’s Family Justice Services Division as an interviewer with the Justice Access Centre. She then took a position in Terrace as a family justice counsellor, and became a certified family mediator through that position, doing additional training at the Justice Institute of British Columbia.

After reconnecting with and then marrying an old friend from Maryland, Hanington moved back to the United States in 2015 to join her husband, where she now works as the outreach coordinator and public information officer at Prince George County’s Human Relations Commission. In this position she creates and delivers anti-hate, anti-bias programming and creates community conversations that build increased understanding among diverse peoples. 

She also hasn’t stopped furthering her education. Hanington finished a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Mississippi University for Women in 2020 and is working on her Master of Arts in Human Rights through the University of London (UK).

She decided now was a good time to give back to VIU – the school that did so much for her when she was at her lowest point – by starting the Kyla Hanington Award for Single Mothers. The annual award gives out one $1,000 tuition credit to a female student who is single parenting – like Hanington was doing when she attended VIU. She wants others to have the same transformational experience she had – and the ripple effects of that education. 

“I think the most significant impact is looking at where my kids are at now,” says Hanington. “They saw their mom really struggle, they came to class with me and when I feared I couldn’t keep going, they sang me encouraging songs. Now my oldest is about to graduate Summa Cum Laude with a BA in Film from Hollins University in Virginia, and my youngest is about to graduate from high school and has been accepted into all six of the universities she applied to. My story isn’t so much about me, it’s about how me going back to school as a mature student set a course for my children, too. We all want to launch our children from the best-possible platform, and here is where VIU brought my family.” 

If you wish to support Hanington’s award for single mothers, visit, select “other” in the drop-down section and enter “Kyla Hanington Award” in the text box. Anyone interested in learning more about supporting students through scholarships, awards, or bursaries can visit the VIU Donors homepage or call VIU’s Annual Giving Manager, Dave Forrester, at 250.618.1319.

VIU baking program rises to the next level

VIU Baking and Pastry Arts students making fruit tarts.
/Vancouver Island University photo

Bakers who want to start their own specialty business or take on commercial management roles can learn the skills they need at new program being offered at VIU.

February 9, 2021

Students who love baking and are ready to take the next step toward becoming a professional baker or even selling their own delicious creations can take a new diploma program starting in August 2021 at Vancouver Island University (VIU).

“Many of our graduates from the baking certificate program go on to start their own businesses,” says Rita Gower, Chair, Professional Baking and Pastry Arts. “That can be risky. It’s not enough to be really good at baking, you need a whole different skill set to thrive at being an entrepreneur.” 

The new two-year Baking and Pastry Arts Management (BPAM) Diploma program provides students with advanced bakery instruction and the business planning and financial management training needed to allow graduates to move successfully into administrative positions or start their own commercial ventures. 

“Having these additional skills opens up another level of opportunities for graduates,” says Gower. “We are seeing growth in the artisanal sector, with specialty bakeries that create custom cakes, breads and bagels, cheese making, ice-cream, condiments and more. People are looking for high-quality products made with the best ingredients that aren’t full of substances people can’t pronounce and are reflective of current trends such as gluten-free, organic or vegan.”

In the first year of the program, students learn the fundamentals of baking, safe operation of commercial kitchen appliances, efficient food production practices, pastry making, advanced breadmaking techniques, how to create stunning wedding cakes, baking in a wood-fired brick oven, and the knowledge and techniques for working with chocolate. 

In year two, students will take advanced pastry courses, providing them with level two technical training towards a baker Red Seal certification. They will also plan and open a pop-up bakery and take a number of business courses that give them skills crucial to managing a kitchen or business, including human resource administration, accounting and marketing through VIU’s Department of Hospitality Management. Students in both the first and second year of the program also participate in a paid 10-week cooperative work placement, often leading to successful career placement.

Every year, highly skilled bakers are brought in as guest teachers to share their knowledge and techniques with VIU instructors and students.

Students and alumni of the baking program have an opportunity every two years to participate in a 16-day European field school excursion to Paris and Brussels touring professional baking facilities, partaking in numerous hands-on workshops and attending a five-day baking show, giving them exposure to international trends in their field. 

The baking program has been popular with students from across Canada and for the first time will be open to international students. VIU’s Culinary Arts program has been accepting international students for several years.

Completion of the diploma also provides students with advanced credit when applying to the VIU Bachelor of Hospitality Management degree. 

“We are excited to offer this comprehensive program,” says Gower. “We are responding to industry demand for competent graduates who are ready to start working in commercial kitchens, and we listened to what our students are saying they need to embrace rising into a management position or operating their own business and becoming the trainers and baking mentors of the future.” 


Photo Caption: VIU Baking and Pastry Arts students making fruit tarts. Photo Credit: Vancouver Island University


VIU sutdent joins national advisory committee

Felicia Fischer

0129 – A Vancouver Island University (VIU) student will have the chance to weigh in on collaborative sustainable development initiatives taking place at institutions across Canada and make sure students are involved in them.

Felicia Fischer, a second-year Master of Community Planning student, has been selected to join the ImpAct Student and Alumni Advisory Committee (ISAAC). ImpAct was launched in Spring 2019 by Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) to advance social, economic and environmental well-being. The initiative, which uses the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework, focuses on three collaborative projects that aim to reduce barriers to inclusive access, promote social entrepreneurship, and improve campus sustainability. ISAAC, which meets once a month, provides strategic input and guidance into initiatives arising from these three working groups. 

“We provide student perspectives and a diversity of experiences to the work,” explains Fischer.

“The SDGs offer valuable guidelines to help tackle some of the most pressing challenges of our time and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity in a healthy environment,” says CICan president and CEO, Denise Amyot. “As community hubs, where education, innovation, and entrepreneurship converge, colleges and institutes are ideally placed to help Canada reach these goals. ImpAct will give us an opportunity to share best practices, but also develop projects that will have tangible results all across the country.” 

Pam Shaw, Director of VIU’s MCP program, is excited that the University will have representation on this national-level committee within CICan. 

“This is an important committee and students from VIU now have a voice and opportunity to contribute as change continues to evolve at a rapid pace for post-secondary institutions across Canada,” she says. “This is a well-deserved appointment and I know Felicia will be a wonderful contributor to this work.”

Fischer’s acceptance letter from CICan noted that while there were a record number of nominees, her application “stood out” and the selection committee believes she will bring a strong voice and solid experience to the collaborative work. 

“Pam suggested I apply because I’ve been both an undergraduate and a graduate student at VIU, and an international student who is transitioning to becoming a domestic student. She thinks having all of those different perspectives and experiences will help me make positive contributions,” says Fischer.

Fischer, who is half-German and half-Trinidadian, believes her background and experiences contributed to her successful application. Her father is a pilot and growing up she has lived all over the world, including Trinidad, Antigua, France, England, Scotland, Italy, Turkey and China. In 2015, Fischer moved to Canada from the UK, where she completed an International Baccalaureate Diploma, to start her undergraduate degree in Digital Media Studies at VIU. 

“I didn’t want to be student number 240 at the back left – I was looking for a smaller university,” she explains. “I also wanted to be close to Vancouver, which has a strong film industry – the industry I initially wanted to work in.” 

Fischer immediately got involved around campus, becoming a Peer Helper and then getting an internship position with the Faculty of International Education, through which she met some planning students who had just arrived from Belize on Queen Elizabeth Scholarships. When they talked about what they were doing in the planning program, Fischer was captivated. 

“In my media studies program, I was interested in digital communities and trying to understand how people are finding connections and building identity in virtual spaces like Minecraft and World of Warcraft,” she says. “My friend Eric explained to me the vital role planning has in building spaces that nurture people and social connections – or not 

Fischer’s ultimate goal is to work in a role where she can bridge the gap between members of the public who want to be involved and those making urban design decisions.  

“We are shaped by the buildings that surround us as much as they are shaped by us,” says Fischer. “Good planning and urban design can create an environment that brings out the best in us.”

Financial support for resilience research at VIU

VIU Nursing Professor Dr. Shannon Dames has received a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research award that will allow her to focus on development of a psychedelic-assisted mental health therapy program. ­­ VIU photo

SUMMARY: Support from BC’s health research funding agency will enable Dr. Shannon Dames to focus on further developing a resilience-focused, psychedelic-assisted mental health therapy program.

0126 – An innovative psychedelic medicine-assisted therapy and resilience training program developed by Vancouver Island University (VIU) Nursing Professor Dr. Shannon Dames and her team is proving to be very effective.

Dames and team have developed a program that delivers cutting-edge treatment to health-care providers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and treatment-resistant mental health complications such as depression, anxiety, trauma and emotional exhaustion. The first 12-week quality improvement trial, conducted in collaboration with Island Health, has yielded remarkable results.

“It is healing people who didn’t think they could be healed,” says Dames. “Our evaluation results show significant improvements. Of the 16 participants in the first quality improvement cohort, 11 screened positive for PTSD. All of the PTSD patients screened negative upon program completion, which is unheard of.” 

Additionally, out of 13 participants who also screened positive for generalized anxiety, 62% left screening negative, and 48% had significant clinical improvements. Of the 13 who screened positive for depression, 100% saw significant improvements in their scores. At the one-month follow up, seven patients were in remission and six patients showed a reduction in symptoms from moderate or severe to mild. 

To continue this promising research, Dames has been awarded $450,000 over five years from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) and the Lotte & John Hecht Memorial Foundation.

The funding will allow her to focus 75% of her time over the next five years to continuing with her research and improving the program. 

The Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research is BC’s health research funding agency. The long-term Professional-Investigator awards support health professionals who are actively involved in patient care to conduct and apply research relevant to health and/or the health system.

“I am delighted at the support this initiative is receiving,” says Dames. “This award is a gift that will allow me the time to really focus on expanding access to these innovative and evidence-based therapies, which are sorely needed during this global health crisis.” 

The project is supported by a multidisciplinary team of health and research professionals and agencies, including the BC SUPPORT Unit Vancouver Island Centre, an initiative that supports patient-oriented research in the region; Island Health clinicians; VIU researchers; the University of Victoria (UVic); and the University of British Columbia (UBC). Dames is also collaborating with Island Health’s Research and Capacity Building department and the Ministry of Health’s Innovation Hub to develop the first publicly offered program in Canada that combines resilience-based communities of practice with ketamine-assisted therapy. Ketamine is currently the only legal medicine that produces psychedelic effects.

“The fact that Shannon received this prestigious award recognizes the exceptionally innovative research that her team is doing and the potential impact for health outcomes in BC,” says Dr. Nicole Vaugeois, Associate Vice-President of Scholarship, Research and Creative Activity at VIU. 

The research team is currently onboarding the second cohort of participants in the Roots To Thrive – Ketamine Assisted Therapy (RTT-KAT) treatment program. Long-term goals include creating an accredited psychedelic-assisted therapy training certificate program, which will be added to the VIU curriculum.


Photo Caption: VIU Nursing Professor Dr. Shannon Dames has received a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research award that will allow her to focus on development of a psychedelic-assisted mental health therapy program. ­­ Photo Credit: Vancouver Island University



VI University culinary arts student cooking for gold

Vancouver Island University

0107 – The day his parents opened Abbondanza, a restaurant in Ucluelet, BC, Ottis Crabbe knew he wanted to become a chef.

His path toward running his own commercial kitchen began last year when he signed up for Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Culinary Arts program, earning two awards in his first year. He will graduate with his Culinary Management diploma this spring.

Jason Lloyd, Chair of the VIU Culinary Arts program, says Crabbe’s passion for cooking and zeal for learning is what earned him a recommendation from instructors for a place on Junior Culinary Team Canada (JCTC).

“Ottis checked a lot of boxes as a strong contender for the team,” says Chef Jason Lloyd. “He showed up here on day one ready to go. He was always ‘Yes Chef, what can I do Chef?’ and volunteered for everything.”  

Crabbe joins eight other culinary students from across the country to represent Canada in the regional category at the oldest culinary competition in the world, the IKA/Culinary Olympics in Stuttgart, Germany, in 2024. Over the next four years, the team will train at the Culinary Institute of Canada in Vancouver under the guidance of Chef John Carlo Felicella, Manager of the Canadian youth team.

“I am very excited about Canada’s new Junior Culinary Team,” says Felicella. “One of the best things about working with and developing young cooks is the true gratification when you witness professional growth. Ottis very much fits the mold of what Junior Culinary Team Canada is all about – specifically his camaraderie, discipline, willingness to share and gain knowledge, and ability to have fun while achieving our end goal. Over the next four years I look forward to our journey together as a team to represent Canada at the Culinary Olympics.”

About 1,800 participants from 67 nations battled for an IKA/Culinary Olympic title in a variety of categories last February. The Youth Team Canada earned double gold and placed 4th in the world competing against 23 other junior national teams.

Crabbe has been honing his cooking skills at this family’s restaurant in Ucluelet and this past year he has been working at The Lakehouse at Shawnigan as a commis, which is an entry-level position where he worked under head chef Ryan Bissel and sous chef Julian Smith.

“It's extremely humbling to be chosen to represent Canada,” says Crabbe. “It is definitely a gateway for me to develop as a chef and it will open a lot of doors for me and opportunities to become better and reach my potential.”

After he graduates in April, Crabbe is planning to get his Red Seal Certificate for cooking and is contemplating pursuing one for professional baking as well. However, his main focus for the next few years will be training for the culinary Olympics.  

“No one is born being really, really good at culinary, it takes a lot of time and effort,” says Crabbe. “I’m willing to put in more work for the final payoff, and I am really excited to represent Canada.” 

Lloyd says Crabbe is the first VIU Culinary Arts student to be chosen for a place on Junior Culinary Team Canada since he began in 2011 and it will be a great experience for him.  

“It speaks to the level of instruction and training that students receive in the program,” adds Lloyd. “It means that when students leave here, they have the skills needed to enter the demanding and exciting world of culinary arts and can find meaningful work further developing their talents and will go on to become world-class chefs.”

Lloyd has worked in some of Canada’s top kitchens and has entered and won many competitions, including top apprentice in Canada in 1996. 

“The people I learned from are now the judges and the mentors for our students in these world-class competitions, and who knows, perhaps one day I’ll get to that point and then the students can work their way up to that level too.”

You can experience university life online in January

0104 – While the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that much of the teaching and learning activities at Vancouver Island University (VIU) are happening online this year, that isn’t stopping the University from hosting its open house events for prospective students.

This January, VIU is rolling Discovery Days, the University’s biggest on-campus event for high school students, and Experience VIU, an event for anyone in the community interested in checking out campus life, into three interactive, virtual days of exploration and discovery. These informative and fun drop-in events will include chances to chat one-on-one with recruiters and educational advisors who can answer your questions about programs, student resources and how to pay for school; videos (including our Chemistry department’s explosive experiments video); downloadable resources; and fun games to help you get to know VIU. Participants can enter to win a range of prizes and VIU swag, including three $1,000 tuition credit prizes for domestic students.

Hosting the event online allows people to participate from wherever they are in the world, while the live chats allow prospective students to get their specific questions answered. The three events take place at different times of the day so people can attend from school, on a break at work, on the weekend or in the evening. Drop in anytime on the following days, between these times:

  • Saturday, January 16 from 9 am to 2 pm
  • Wednesday, January 20 from 1 pm to 6:30 pm
  • Thursday, January 21 from 1 pm to 6:30 pm

These informal events are for anyone interested in learning more about post-secondary and how VIU can help you achieve your career goals, from high school students and their parents, to those who have been out of school for a while and are ready to explore their options.

International students will be able to learn more about what it’s like to live on Vancouver Island, accommodation options, immigration, admission requirements and more. Our Services for Aboriginal Students staff will be there as well for those who want to learn more about the Indigenous community at VIU and supports for Indigenous students.

Check out this video featuring VIU Recruiter Dylan Ewen to learn more, or visit the Experience VIU registration page to sign up.